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equal roundness, but a few months before, that James B<x»i, himself had said, at the dinner-table: 'I have no doubt Lin or' that the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church.' Nor is it unimportant, as bearing on the degree of credi
MSS. 25»0, 10 (Gardiner Transcripts).
bility to be assigned to Gondomar's despatches, when they S l" 1 * chance to be uncorroborated,—to remark that a despatch 11 1,1
addressed by him to the Duke of Lerma, in November, contains an express contradiction of an assertion addressed to Philip, in the preceding April. To the King, as we have just seen, he narrates Cotton's communication of despatches written by Digby. To the Minister he writes, six months later, that 'a traitor had given information' against Cotton, for communicating Papers of State to the Spanish Ambassador, and that the charge is 'false.' Discrepancies like this (howsoever easily explained, or explain- simancu able) suffice to show that Gondomar's testimony, when (Gardiner unsupported, needs to be read with caution; and of such pt")' discrepancies there are many. Consummate as he was in diplomatic ability of several kinds, this able statesman was nevertheless loose (and sometimes reckless) in assertion. He was very credulous when he listened to welcome news. It is impossible to study his correspondence without perceiving that to him, as to so many other men, the wish was often father of the thought.
On the 22nd of June, Sir_ Robert paid another visit to Gondomar. He told me, says the Ambassador, that the King's hesitations had been overcome; that James was now willing to negotiate on the basis of the Spanish articles, with some slight modifications; that Somerset had taken his stand upon the match with Spain, had won the co-operation of the Duke of Lennox, and was now willing to stake his fortunes on the issue. Sir Robert Cotton, adds GonDomar, 'assured me of his own satisfaction at the turn
B«ok i, which things had taken, as he had no more ardent wish Lira of than to live and die an avowed Catholic, like his fathers and CoTM!"" ancestors* Whereupon I embraced him, and said that God would guide.'
Thus far, I have, advisedly, followed a Spanish account of English conversations. Although believing that there exists, already ample, evidence (both in our own archives and elsewhere) for bringing home to the Count of GondoMar wilful misstatements of fact—in the despatches which he was wont to write from London—as well as very pardonable misapprehensions of the talk which he reports, I have ii.TE»viE«r preferred to put before the reader the Ambassador's own story in its Spanish integrity.
The mere fact, indeed, that an English historianf, deservedly esteemed for his acute and painstaking research, as well as for his eminent abilities, has honoured Gondomar's story by endorsing it, is warrant enough for citing these
* 'Tambien me dijo que el Conde de Somerset havia puesto todo su
resto en este negocio, y ganado el Duque de Lenox aventurandose
el Conde . . a ganarse y asegararse si ae hazia, o a perderse si no se hacia; concluyendo esta platica el Coton con decirme que el estava loco de contento de ver esto en este estado, porque no pretendia ni desseava otra cosa mas que vivir y morir publicamente Catolico, como Sub padres y abuelos lo havian sido.'—Gardiner Transcripts of MSS. at Simancas, vol. i, p. 102 (MS.).
f Mr. S. R. Gardiner. His account is contained in the able paper entitled On Certain Letters of the Count of Gondomar giving an Account of the Affair of the Earl of Somerset, read to the Society of Antiquaries in 1867. Comp. the same historian's Prince Charles and the Spanish Marriage (Vol. I, c. 1, and especially the passage beginning 'Sarmiento was surprised by a visit from Sir Robert Cotton,' and so on). In these pages I use Sarmiento's subsequent title of Gondomar,' simply because English readers are more familiar with it than with the Spaniard's family name. Mr. Gardiner needlessly deepens the stain on Cotton's memory, arising —all allowance duly made—out of this intercourse with Gondomar, by the remark that 'twenty months before' the interview occurred, Sir despatches as they stand. But they have now to be com- Boo»i, pared.with another account of the same transaction given by u«o» authority of Sir Robert Cotton himself. It was given sc'^°^ upon a memorable occasion. The place was the Painted Chamber in the Palace of Westminster. The hearers were the assembled Lords and Commons of the Realm.*
The Spaniard, it "seems, was far, indeed, from holding— as he says that he held—his first conference with Cotton
Robert had ' argued his case' [i. e. a tract on the question of the right treatment, by the State, of Romanist priests and recusants] 'from a decidedly Protestant point of view, and had taken care to put himself forward as a thorough, if not an extreme, Protestant.' But, unfortunately for Mr. Gardiner's trenchant conclusion on that point, the pamphlet he refers to—by whomsoever written—was certainly not written by Sir Robert Cotton.
*' [Then the Duke] came to the Relation of Sir Robert Cotton [of the intercourse] that he had with the Spanish Ambassador in 1614 [O.S.]. The Spanish Ambassador came to his house pretending [a desire] to see his rarities. On the 10th of February he acquainted His Majesty with it. Somerset [had] warrant then to sound the life of the intention. [Gondomar] told him he doubted he had no warrant to set any such thing on foot. [On the] 16th of March the Spanish Ambassador dealt with him and endeavoured to make Somerset Spanish, and to further this match. [He] answered him that there were divers rubs and difficulties in it. [On the] 9th of April he gave [Gondomar] a pill in a paper—viz. three reasons: If the King of Spain would not urge unreasonable things in Religion, then,' &c. [as in Gondomar's letter, which I have already quoted]. 'Afterwards Sir Robert Cotton was questioned [for shewing] to the Ambassador of Spain a packet [received] from
Spain [In the year] 1616, His Majesty told Sir Robert
Cotton that Gondomar had counterfeited those letters, and that he was a "juggling jack.'" Here Sir Edward Coke interposed. He was one of the Managers of the Conference for the Commons. He spoke thus: 'This matter has a little relation to me. I committed Sir Robert Cotton, when I was Chief Justice. Fori understood he had intelligence with the Spanish Ambassador, and questioned him for it. For no subject ouglii to converse with Ambassadors without the King's leave. For the offence [for which] I committed him [Sir Robert had] afterwards his general pardon from the King.' Journals of the House of Commons, 4 March, 1624. Vol. I, pp. 727, 728.
Booi i, either in his own ambassadorial lodging, or upon credenLiFKor' tials given in the name and by the command of King Cotot1"1 James. That Cotton sought him he suggests, by implication. That the visit, in which the ground was broken, was made at the King's instance, he states circumstantially. Both the suggestion and the assertion are false.
As the reader has seen, Sir Robert's openness in exhibiting his library and his antiquities was matter of public notoriety. Profiting by that well-known facility of access, i'briuty. the Spanish Ambassador presented himself at Cotton House in the guise of a virtuoso. 'Do me the favour—with your wonted benevolence to strangers—to let me see your Museum.' With some such words as these, Gondomar volunteered his first visit; led the conversation, by and bye, to politics; found that Cotton was not amongst the fanatical and undiscriminating enemies of Spain at all price—outspoken, as he had been, from the first, in his assertion both of the wisdom and of the duty of England to protect the Netherlanders; showed him certain letters or papers (not now to be identified, it appears), and in that way produced an impression on Cotton's mind which led him to confer with Somerset, and eventually with the King. So much is certain. Unfortunately, the speeches at the famous' Conference ' on the Spanish Treaty, in 1624, are reported in the most fragmentary way imaginable. The reporter gives mere hints, where the reader anxiously looks for details. Their present value lies in the conclusive reasons which notwithstanding the lacunae—they supply for weighing, with many grains of caution, the accusations of an enemy of England against an English statesman— whensoever it chances that those accusations are uncorroborated. King James himself (it may here be added), when looking back at this mysterious transaction some years later, and in one of his Anti-Spanish moods—said to Sir Robert: Boo»i, 'The Spaniard is a juggling jack. I believe he forged ullor those lettersalluding, as the context suggests, to the cJ^foTM. papers—whatever they were—which Gondomar showed to Cotton at the outset of their intercourse, in order to induce him to act as an intermediary between himself and the Earl of Somerset.
At this time, the ground was already trembling beneath Somerset's feet, though he little suspected the source of his real danger. He knew, ere long, that an attempt would be made to charge him with embezzling jewels of the Crown. In connection with this charge there was a State secret, in which Sir Robert Cotton was a participant with Somerset, and with the King himself. And a secret it has remained. Such jewels, it is plain, were in Somerset's hands, and by him were transferred to those of Cotton. Few persons who have had occasion to look closely into the surviving documents and correspondence which bear upon the subsequent and famous trials for the murder of Overbury, will be likely to doubt that the secret was one among those 'alien matters' of which Somerset was so urgently and so repeatedly adjured and warned, by James's emissaries, to avoid all mention, should he still persist (despite the royal, repeated, and almost passionate, entreaties with which he was beset) in putting himself upon his trial; instead of pleading guilty, after his wife's example, and trusting implicitly to the royal mercy.
For the purpose of warding off the lesser, but foreseen, danger, Cotton advised the Earl to take a step of which the Crown lawyers made subsequent and very effective use, in order to preclude all chance of his escape from the un- 1016foreseen and greater danger. By Sir Robert's recommenda